Solar storms can wreak havoc on Earth from blind side of the Sun | Tech News

Solar storms can wreak havoc on Earth from blind side of the Sun

Even though the weather forecaster systems on Earth have become more advanced and powerful, yet they still don't know what goes on on the far side of the Sun. And if a powerful solar storm brews there, it can quickly be disastrous for us.

By: HT TECH
| Updated on: Aug 30 2022, 13:03 IST
WARNING! Solar Storm to hit Earth soon
Solar storm
1/5 According to Spaceweather.com’s report, the new sunspot is so huge that it is even changing the way the sun vibrates. The Space Weather Prediction Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted that the geomagnetic field around Earth would be unsettled over the weekend which could disrupt the radio-magnetic sphere. (nasa.gov)
Solar storm
2/5 Spaceweather.com said, “A high speed stream of solar wind is approaching Earth. Estimated time of arrival: Aug. 9th. The gaseous material is flowing from an equatorial hole in the sun's atmosphere. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras.” (SDO/NASA)
Solar storm
3/5 Solar storms occur due to a coronal mass ejection (CME) that is set off on the surface of the Sun. As per the K-index, which measures the magnetic field around the Earth, solar storms are divided into 5 classes from G-1 to G-5. The G-1 is the lowest impact solar G5 is given to the most severe solar storms. (Pixabay)
Solar storm
4/5 According to NASA, Sunspots are dark areas on the solar surface which contain strong magnetic fields that are constantly shifting and can form and dissipate over periods of days or weeks. They occur when strong magnetic fields emerge through the solar surface and allow the area to cool slightly. (Pixabay)
Solar storm
5/5 When solar flares hit Earth, they interact with the Earth’s electromagnetic field to cause a Geomagnetic storm. It may cause blackouts, GPS problems. However, if the solar storm is big enough, it can wreak havoc on all the earth's technological infrastructure. It is also the reason behind the stunning night-sky phenomenon that we know as Auroras or Northern Lights. (Pixabay)
Solar storm
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Not being able to observe the far side of the Sun can mean bad news for the Earth when a powerful solar storm eventually strikes. (NASA)

Today, agencies like NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) observe the Sun continuously to predict when the next solar storm can hit the Earth. This prediction time helps us in shutting down satellites, turning off the power grids and sensitive instruments as well as sending out warnings in case a powerful storm strikes the planet. But the system which gives us the assurance of keeping us safe is not really fool-proof. In fact, its prediction capabilities exist in a very short range — between the time the solar flare has erupted on the Sun and till the coronal mass ejection (CME) reaches the Earth. And this means that there is a lot of scope for a solar storm sneaking up on us from our blind side and hitting us unprepared. And what happens after that? Read on to find out.

Solar storm from Earth's blind side can be catastrophic

There are reasons why despite technological advancements, we have not been able to make significant progress when it comes to space weather forecasting. And in simple terms, it is just really impossible to monitor the entire Sun. Both the satellite-based and Earth-based telescopes can only observe the side of the Sun which faces the Earth. But we have no idea what happens on the far side of the Sun. This creates a unique problem. In case, a sunspot became active while it was on the far side of the Earth and it exploded as soon as it came to our view, we would not get a warning before the storm struck the planet.

Bill Murtagh, NOAA's SWPC program coordinator talked about the 2003 solar storm incident, also known as the Halloween solar storm, and highlighted how nobody saw it coming. He told Space.com, “I remember that October week quite distinctly. Partly because it was my birthday, but mostly because the sun was really unremarkable. We had no idea what was going to happen just one week later”.

Interestingly, that storm carried just about tenth of the energy of the Carrington event. Yet, it disrupted hundreds of flights, caused power cuts for thousands in Sweden and resulted in spacecraft operators to lose track of low Earth orbit satellites for days. Japan's Advanced Earth Observing Satellite 2 lost contact with the ground control and never regained it.

About 20 years later, we are much more reliant on our wireless technology and satellites. If such a storm were to hit us, it would cause catastrophic damage to the Earth.

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First Published Date: 30 Aug, 13:03 IST
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